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Basic Webmaster Skills

what would you have wanted to know just starting out?



6:53 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I want to start a brainstorming session for WmW readers to come up with some topics they would have liked to know when first starting out as a webmaster.

What did you wish you knew starting out?

What are the four or five basic skills/areas of knowledge every webmaster should know starting out?

What basic info do you want to know now to expand your skills?

Any other topics that would be useful for a beginner.

This thread is meant to compile a list of ideas. We can hash out the ideas in other starter threads in the next few weeks.


7:44 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

JamesR, here are somethings for the idea board. These are questions that I had when I came to this site at the beginning of the year.

  • What sort of software tools are available and what might I want to use for creating and maintaining a website?
  • How can I figure out a user agent? What is a user agent?
  • Is there a basic primer for design, development, and launch of a website? What do I need to know?
  • Are there any things I must do?
  • What should I avoid doing? (a subjective question, but it was a burning question for me.)
  • How do I write good content, and why are keywords important?
  • Where can I research keywords, and what are good keyword ratios?



7:56 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Why page "size" is so important (I see pages at major sites that are 100-150K in size so it isn't just for beginners).

Browser cross-compatibility issues. (what some are known to choke on and how to avoid it)

How to avoid turning the user away with pop-ups and cool jscript.

Banner ads: pros-cons

What fonts to avoid that make it almost impossible to read some sites.

Colors that hurt the eyes :)

I know these could fall under different forums - but it's nice for the beginner to find all in one place.


8:19 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think a very very infomative and descriptive section on installing CGI/perl Scripts ex.. Message boards searches etc... I think theres tons of these scripts out there and not much help getting them installed. I remember my first message board instalation... Well its still not working but thats besides the point. I think an in detail example of installing CGI Scripts would be a great great thing.


By the way this is a great idea.


8:26 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My main question was:

How can I find out new SEO info without paying $120 a year for an e-newsletter?



I guess if they found the site though, they already know this. :)


8:27 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Good idea ;)


9:15 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

>>Any other topics that would be useful for a beginner.

Personally, at the very beginnings, I wanted to know and couldn't find any good resources on how to build frames at the time (not sure I want to know now :).

I didn't have any idea what the head tags were.

Also, what was the structure of a html page - how should it be coded. I'm talking about the head/body areas and what should go in there.

What about mentioning dtd's?

The most useful resource that I found when I first started hand-coding (I think using NS composer had a lot to do with that :) ) was the bare bones guide to html - a comprehensive list of tags that could be used.

brotherhood of LAN

10:03 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

its a great question....

when looking back to when I truly began, I can't remember what rules of thumb and info I had :) I guess one tip would be "stay adaptive - never be adapted" :)

there is so much information to learn, and I found my greatest barrier to be motivation. If you are motivated to learn, share, and employ, then theres no stopping you head down the long road :)

I have no real great beginners tips cos im a beginner :) Its here and now - get it done ;)


10:35 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

*Building Search Engines


10:51 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator jatar_k is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

what about an overview of technologies? Maybe just proper names and their function within the web environment. I know that when I started people would use all these acronyms for different languages and I would have to ask every second word what they were talking about.

eg. PHP, ASP, PYTHON, IIS, PERL, XML, DHTML, CSS, Javascript, Jscript, VBscript ... etc.

Maybe a little bit on how the whole thing works? The client/server relationship?

Not sure, this might be too much but these were the things I wondered about.


11:12 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've read alot of the threads on .htaccess, and I've visted a number of websites about it, but I'm still strugling to get a handle on the basics. It seems most discussions about .htaccess start well above the entry level.


11:22 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

HTML [w3.org]/XHTML [w3.org], CSS [w3.org], [url=ftp://ftp.ecma.ch/ecma-st/Ecma-262.pdf]EcmaScript/JavaScript[/url], the Document Object Model [msdn.microsoft.com], a server-side scripting mechanism such as ASP or PHP, the configuration for a web server such as IIS or Apache, understanding how HTTP [ietf.org] works, understanding how a browser works, some basics about the plumbing of the internet [webmasterworld.com], and HTML validation [validator.w3.org].

The links above are the technical specs or other authoritative document on the subject. A beginner should find the HTML for Dummies version, but should know of the existence of the spec.


11:25 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What about .htaccess for dummies? :)


11:32 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

One day one, I wish I knew and understood two things:

* how to use server-side includes to save time managing a site

* how to optimize images for fastest download

I built a huge information-based site and had no headers, footers, etc. Changing a link was a royal pain in the arse. And my images were just enormous. Ugh.


11:41 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

How about Scam Identification 101.

There are many out there targetting the new & uninformed webmaster.

eg. why shouldn't I purchase 1,000,000 unique visitors for $1.99 or 500,000 email addresses and add them to my newsletter subscribers?

The Contractor

11:46 pm on Jun 6, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


You had to ask didn't you ;)

Looks like you will be a busy man as these are all good suggestions.


12:21 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

excellant question James,

if i could start from the basic's

1. Content distribution over structure, only on the web initially does one feel compelled, due to lack of knowledge to load up pages with a multivariate of keyterms and spam. If you were going to write a book, then thats the last thing you would do, obviously websites, from all perspective of the SEO front, are to provide the quickest and most precise presentaion of information in the least complex format. Theme's, great for the user, great for the search engines.

2. Design, full principles of W3C validated XHTML, CSS, HTML, XML, etc. in laymens terms, browser compatibilities, user bandwidth realities, simplicity of use and accessibility. Graphic.extensions, various propreitry code and not using it if SEO is the major consideration.

3. Submission (part 1: directories and search engines)
section A: on a shoe string budget. Excellant cat and listing in ODP, google, fast, altavista, hotbot, northern light, hand submissions once.
section B: $2K per annum, listing in yahoo.com, and regional yahoo. LS.com partners, ink, teoma, any money left a few pages translated, and some overture listings (highly targetted). As well as A.
section C: Just want the #1 on them all. Get an experienced SEO, or submit 5 times to Yahoo, different sections or subdomains, working on theming principle, 5 * LS.com, or a mixture of general / regional listings, massive overture expenditure, Google adwords. specific industry related portals and directories, as well as A and B not mentioned.

4. Linking. Hunt links at least pr>5, and / or at the top of the ODP, Yahoo, Fast, Ink and whatever directory or search engine that is in the searchers demands, and get the links in, good for ever regular crawls and updates, highly specific, and try not let the outgoing links, work against incoming, either do it all to the main page or to subsections, with them linking out.

5. Find a home to learn at, i would suggest here, this is a pretty knowledgable and constantly expanding area of the internet, this place is slowly becoming the water fountain of knowledge concerning all things website, search engine, and SEO orientated.

6. A little bit of luck, any body that thinks they know all there is too know is chatting rubbish, the reality is that we all learn by mistakes, and they can be the most valuable of lessons.

The Contractor

12:29 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member


I have a ? about #4. How come everyone wants/expects links "to" them, yet everyone says do not give links to anyone "it will pull from your PR"? This is the most contradicting statement that I see given on these forums all the time. Or you get some that say give a link back using javascript so you don't pull from PR. I'm sorry but if someone gives me a decent "themed" link I will return the favor without trying to figure out a way to cheat them out of what "I" wanted from them. I truly believe you will see themed links the only thing that counts within the next year or so.

My 2-cents


1:22 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

dependant on what industry your in.

trade associations, universities, free portals, vortals, directories, that are specific to an area will give out links if they deem your site very useful, maybe its because the webmaster does not understand linking strategies, or that their site is a deemed hub, by directories / search engines, that linking to you is not going to harm them, articles in news based sites is a good example.

other means are a little more dubious as in a thousand page website, with hundreds of incoming links to that base url, and the only link to your links page is from the base url, hence the rest of the links off the base is redistributed trhough the site, back to the base.

their are many ways, but relevant freebies is by far the best.


3:47 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

The thing I wish I knew before my first site was the that there is a lot more available than plain HTML. In other words don't just start building table after table until it looks okay, pick an up to date tecnique and stick with it until you get it.
I can't wait for the threads that come from this because then I can find more things I wish I had Known. he he ;)


5:23 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

How to upload a file from a folder on the desktop to the ISP.


9:01 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Having been around on the net for 5 five years... I wish I knew when I started out:

1. Knowledge in Perl and CGI. This is very important if you want to add interactivity into your site... such as message boards, guestbooks, surveys etc. Yes, there are remotely hosted versions of these, but usually they are accompanied by big banner ads and customization is very limited. After Perl/Cgi, you can opt to learn Php, mysql & asp for heavier tasks.

2. That getting my own domain wasn't really impossible. My very first site was hosted on geocities, and I thought that was it for me... I stayed for a few years until I discovered register.com and my current webhost. And the rest was history...

3. That I discovered this site much much earlier, if it already existed back then.

4. The best tools in the industry that I use right now.

Graphics - Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator
WYSIWYG HTML - Macromedia Dreamweaver
Text Editor for HTML & Scripts - UltraEdit

5. Better writing skills. Nothing can beat the ability to write good content. With this talent you can build a site that people could actually go to and enjoy themselves. Oh yes, Google loves content.

6. That interface and navigation design doesn't have to be all that complicated. I used fancy DHTML menus and simply got crazy. Looked nice but ultimately futile.

One more thing... If you're a downright beginner, HTML for Dummies worked for me great. It's good to learn HTML right at its roots, before you jump to a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get software like Dreamweaver or Frontpage.


9:05 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

No one (I had spoken to) ever mentioned that font support between OS was different. For a very long time I thought the major font types were all supported no matter what system the user was on.


9:53 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Knowing about O'Reilly books... Would have saved lots of time/money...


10:44 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member littleman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

*Basic Webmaster Skills*

stage one:
working an FTP client
basic knowledge of HTML

stage two:
basic server side scripting
basic client side scripting, CSS
basic SEO

stage three:
No two people would fallow the same path from here on out.


10:50 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

What did I wish I was aware of?

Useability - and by this I don't mean the useability gurus. What would make someone look at my site and think "urrggh". For example, spinning gifs, java applets, .js fades and blends, mouse trails and all the other things that beginners are attracted by (I still have the water reflection download somewhere on my hard drive).

Templates, library items (for those using WYSIWYG) or includes. Mega timesaving down the line.

Integrating SEO at the earliest stage possible. How many people (the majority of website designers?) still think it is enough to spam a couple of meta tags? Not to link willy-nilly.

Above all, the importance of content (proper content, not just SE content) and the blending of design, technique, content and marketing. Too many sales, graphics or tech specialists out there - but the people come to a site for its content and return because of what they see or what they read.


11:27 am on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Nice thread!

2 years down the road I still consider myself a beginner, but I think for me there's two things I could and should have learned before I tried doing anything:

1. A good understanding and overview of HTTP

2. A good understanding and overview of how webserver's work. Here's a link that may help new webmasters with this one: http://webservercompare.internet.com/webbasics/ [webservercompare.internet.com]

<edit> make that three things - the importance of SEO being the third. I now wish I'd started with this right at the beginning rather than playing catch-up now, if for no other reason than as far as I can see a well optimised site is also a good site for your users. </edit>


2:36 pm on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

SEO is the one thing I still wish I knew well. I have always known you need keywords and the such but never really had a clear understanding of how to do it. Also the value of reading a book to learn the correct way instead of viewing source. I taught myself HTML buy veiwing source. This is not the best way to learn. Who says they did it right?


3:08 pm on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

What about setting up a cross-browser testing environment with little resources?


3:21 pm on Jun 7, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member vitaplease is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Very important to focus your effort.. 20% of the search engines take 80% of the search referrals..


When people recognise Google's predominance, they shout DMOZ.

Do not rush your submission to DMOZ, get your site good-looking first and make sure you choose the right category for submission and try to suggest your title/description which matches your most important search phrase.
DMOZ will probably your highest ranking pagerank link for the first months.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38

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